**A pea crop is usually a lot of vines but not a high production of peas. However, they are also very easy to grow, they are good for your garden soil, they don’t take up much space, and they are an early and quick crop that means the little space they take will be available in time for your fall crops.
**The most important fact about peas is that they cannot stand hot weather. If temperatures are consistently over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the plants will die. However, the seeds tolerate frost very well, so they are the ideal early-spring crop (Check out more early spring crops here).
**They are not good in the fall season, though, because even though the seeds tolerate frost, the mature pods do not, so do not grow in the fall unless your climate gives you a two month break between summer heat and frost.
**If you live in a warm climate, fall and even winter planting are possible.
**Peas will grow both in full sun and in a partly shaded location. Choose the best location based on the variety of pea. Some will need support due to being taller vine types, while others grow in a more bush-type shape.
**Pea crops should be rotated every year to avoid disease and to benefit other crops from the nutrients they leave behind. Check out my Crop Rotation Guide for more information.
**The ideal soil for peas is a light and sandy loam that warms up quickly. However, if you are trying to have a later crop, you might find a clay soil beneficial because it will help keep the roots cooler.
**Your soil should have plenty ofwell-rotted manure or compost put into it because peas always need a good supply of moisture to germinate and grow well. The soil’s pH level should be around 6.5 and you should add lime if the soil is more acidic than that. Here is an option for a soil test kit if you do not own one yet.
**There are many different ways to plant peas, and you might find it beneficial to experiment.
**Keep in mind that a pea plant’s vines are very delicate, so choose the location for your seeds carefully, perhaps along the garden fence or on a garden trellis (like this one), so that you do not crush them.
**Prepare the garden soil for your peas the fall season before planting by adding organic matter to the soil. Then, poke the seeds into the soil as soon as the ground has thawed and dried sufficiently in the spring.
**If you want super-early peas, you can start them in soil blocks (like this one) a couple weeks before planting time. You can also start them in a cold frame. A raised bed will also speed up planting by a week or so because of the good drainage and warmer soil.
**Plant the seeds (like these ones) 1 inch deep and 2-4 inches apart (depending on your variety). Keep the soil well moistened until the peas are sprouting.
**Planting a succession of pea crops, or planting varieties that mature at different times, will give you many weeks of early summer peas.
**For fall crops, sow about two months before the first expected frost.
**Once the peas are planted, there is not much you need to do with them.
**If you feel like your soil is not sufficient or you are trying to hurry up the crop before hot weather, you can feed them with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion (like this one) when the plants are about 6 inches tall.
**You should also consider mulching your plants when they are 6 inches tall to help keep moisture levels stable and to prevent weeds.
**If you are growing the taller vine types with some type of support system, you might need to help guide the vines toward the support if they are leaning the wrong way (something like this).
**If your pea crops were healthy, you can turn under the pea crops after harvest back in the soil to enrich the soil even more, but only do this if your crops were completely healthy.
**Pick peas promptly. If you wait even a day too long, they lose their sweetness and flavor because the sucrose in them turns into starch. If you wait too many days, you also slow down the production of a plant that is already notorious for low production rates.
**Pea vines produce from the bottom up, so look for mature peas at the bottom first.
**Traditional green peas are picked when you can feel full-size round peas inside the pods but the peas do not feel hard. You can also open up a pod, look at the peas and taste them.
**The edible-pod peas are picked before the peas form, when the pods are full size but still flat. The exception is the sugar pod type, which are picked when the pods are full of round peas even though you also eat the pod.
**If you have waited too long and your peas are tough and tasteless, simply throw them in your compost pile so that they are still at least giving you the benefit of their nutrients for future crops (you ARE keeping your own compost pile, right??). If not, check out my post on how to make your own compost pile and get started today!
**As soon as you pick garden peas, the sugar in them will start to turn to starch, so pick them just before dinner/eating. If you are not eating them right away, at least refrigerate them immediately or freeze them. They will stay sweet when frozen.
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